Boosting creativity is not a magical process, says journalist Jonah Lehrer. In his newest book, “Imagine: How Creativity Works,” Lehrer explores different thought processes that anyone can use to foster creativity. He also debunks the myth that creativity is a gift possessed only by the few.

How Creativity Works 4 April,2012forum

Jonah Lehrer, editor at large for Seed Magazine and author of books including "Imagine: How Creativity Works" and "How We Decide"

  • Stefanie

    I think Albert Einstein had a handle on the roots of creativity when he wrote:

    “Creativity doesn’t come from doing what you’re supposed to diligently (that’s discipline). No. Creativity comes from trying things we’re not supposed to, from not using those ticking seconds efficiently, from avoiding work, from adding fun to a boring task, and from the mind that says to itself, “Wouldn’t it be funny if…”
    And what other time is this not more apparent than when we’re procrastinating and wasting time?
    Creativity is the residue of time wasted.
    The creative being is at first, a horrible user of time; a time-waster.”

  • donhagelberg

    Doctor Howard Gardner at Havard has maintainted that there are at least eight if not nine different clusters of talents which an individual might have from physical sense to mathematical sense. Doctor Gardner seems to have physical proof that these talents exist. [Multiple Intelligenes]. Could if follow that crushing these interests when young kills creativity in those fields in which an individual was once gifted?

  • Mike

     The Millennial Generation is full of young kids who believe they are deep thinking “creative types” when they are clearly just struggling to create a unique identity. I have a 25 year old friend who lives with his parents and has always maintained he’s an “artist”. How do parents encourage creativity while giving their kids a grounding in reality?

  • Adam lam

    I find that at the end of grueling day. Say 16-18 hours of work. In that point of time when I’m exhausted I come up with the greatest ideas of mine for furniture an design.

  • ATHarvey

    Dear Jonah Leherer,

    Your topic is fascinating and you are fun to listen to but your recent NPR blitz has featured a very limited menu of case studies/examples.

    Don’t you know we also listen to Fresh Air! 

    I imagine this must be tough for the media-touring non-fiction author but I think strategic examples would go further in suggesting a breath of knowledge in your book.

  • Jen

     I always cringe when I hear about corporations trying to instill innovation in their companies – they always manage to engineer the creativity out of people/groups. What are your guests thoughts on the business of creativity?

  • Guest

    My college aged son is so overwhelmed with classwork that he rarely gets enough sleep, let alone time to relax. What does this say about the intense college curriculum of today in terms of creativity?

  • anon

    I am 6 years old and love to draw and day dream at the same time.

  • Scott

    I don’t know if this question arises because I’m a law student or because I just got out of my Constitutional Law class (which is always focusing on defining and distinguishing terms), but in this discussion of how creativity works, a number of studies or stories have been mentioned that focus on how to solve a creative problem.  However, I don’t feel like I truly understand what Mr. Lehrer exactly means by creativity or a creative problem.  Could anything be considered a creative problem or do you have a specific set of parameters in mind when discussing creativity/creative problems?

  •       “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” Orson Welles quotes (American motion-picture actor, director, producer, and writer, 1915-1985)Similar Quotes. About: Art quotes.     Add to Chapter…

  • Earthnik

    How can we rekindle or creativity?

  • Charles Carlson

    Great show! One criticism of the book I have is a lack of bibliographic references. I wish it more extensive and detailed.

  • Jim

    Is there a relationship between marijuana and creativity, beyond any relaxation effect it might have?  Have there been studies on this?

  • Leemoba

    Children aren’t given proper brushes, etc., so it’s no wonder they don’t feel successful when creating!

  • Lee

    Children aren’t given proper brushes so they can feel successful when painting in school!

  • Diana

    As a design student, I once wrote a research paper about creativity in children. A researcher who studied hundreds of toddlers all over the world concluded that children, no matter where they are in the world, go through the same phases of pattern making. All children are creative, creating is experiencing the magic of limitless potential for a child. It is when they reach an age (usually about 4) that parents begin to comment on and encourage/discourage their mark-making. It saddens me to know that most people who deny that they are creative were once that free, only to get older and believe their creativity has no value.

  • Kate

    I once read that if we treated reading like we do drawing, only a few would be able to read! When a child does not draw what we think of as ‘well’, we tell them  it’s okay! – no one can do everything. You have other talents. What if we applied that model to a child trying to read for the first time? Almost everyone can draw quite competently with just a little practice~

  • Kevin from Palo Alto

    Curious to hear if Jonah has learned any techniques for his own writing process as a result of his research.

  • donhagelberg

    As an alcoholic-addict who no longer has to pick up, I would stress that a small amount of alcohol is needed to make the strings between fields quiver in a chord.  Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Carver, Cheever all suffered from alcoholism. Paul Bowles from both.

  • Codesusy

    You guys familiar with weiden+Kennedy ad agency in portland, or? I temped there and was so impressed with the number of games, grown-up toys, and support of free time and free form interaction of their creative staff.

    Can you talk about the creative requirements of more scientific or empirical fields? Lots of familiarity with classically creative occupations, what about the creativity involved with engineering, physics, economics? The creativity involved in these fields underrated I think…

  • Kate

    Don’t you think it’s true that, really, we’re just instruments, and when we relax enough to clear the channel, the universe just comes through us?

  • Joanna Rashid

    Is the guest aware of the research of Carol Dweck at Stanford University? She has studied what she calls the growth mindset in grade school children. Might the guest discuss how this is related to his ideas on creativity?

  • Sarah Bade

    I am a childrens art teacher. I always hear, “i cant draw/makeitlook like/paint/dance, etc.”. I tell them making it “look like” is wonderful but it isnt always what is the most important. However, to them they think “look like” means creative.

    I then show them how they use language every day/on the playground, etc. When they say, “those shoes sick”, it doesnt mean the shoes have an illness…it is something new that THEY have come up with in language TOGETHER that means those shoes are fantastic.

    Yes, I tell them practice will give them control, but creativity is something they do EVERYDAY together and alone. IT IS BEINGHUMAN

  • Benson

    I was taking a course in creativity in college and indulging my passion of sewing on my off hours.

    I encountered my first requirement for a bound buttonhole.  the pattern had instructions that I could not make sense of.

    I tried for about two hours to follow the diagrams and the verbal instruction with no luck, so  I quit and took a nap.

    During the nap I dreamed about how the buttonhole was done.  I woke up quite agitated and went to the sewing machine.  I trimmed a bunch of scraps and

    made a perfect buttonhole.

  • Scott

    I think Justice Stewart would have agreed with Mr. Lehrer’s evaluation of creativity.  He famously once wrote (however referring to pornography): I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…”

    • Stuart

      Yes, you “know” when you see it since there is an observer (you), an act (see), and what is being perceived (it) at a particular moment (context). This however only reinforces that we cannot “objectify” a human metaphor such as “creativity,” whose meaning varies so widely depending on all the above factors. Simply and vastly ignorant and distorting is speaking of creativity as if it’s an object of (observer-removed, context-free, repeatable) scientific investigation. Both brain scientists and journalists rush to cash in on people’s illusion that neuro-science can somehow explain (subjective) human domains in (objective) scientific terms. I wish the host would be more and science-properly skeptical when it comes to this (harmful) neuro-science fad so rampant among the commercial publishers.

  • doublegregg

    i think your guest inhibits creativity by saying that it takes 10,000 hours before you get there. you may already be there, and spending 10,000 hours will just kill it. for example, i saw a painting exhibit by 6th graders. they were all very proficient, realistic, advanced — creative? i would not say so. they were all identical. their creativity had been killed for uniformity.

  • Christine

    Does IMAGINE have any ‘how to’ exercises?

  • Oh please!  More self-styled claptrap about the wondrous imaginative gifts of ADHD.  And Lehrer calls himself a journalist?  This is pandering of the worst order.

  • Benson

    The worst killer of creativity among kids is the urge to attract attention by performing and showing off.  If they have become gluttons for attention, it becomes very difficult for them to play in an experimental way.  Someone may
    laugh at them or fail to notice them.

  • Cboullon

    I work in a creative company doing something not creative at all which is Finance. And it is a great fight against organizing creative people that are not very organized. Why is it that creative people are not organized…

  • Carolregli

    This was a Great interview with Jonah Lehrer,I bought three copies of his book today

  • Kathleenjain

    Fascinating interview. I come up with solutions to most of my dilemmas/problems at about 4am in the morning in a half wake/half sleep state.Kathleen

  • NatePagel

    Loved this program – very thought provoking – and how can you not love a show that recommends, due to scientific research, one should drink a beer and take a hot shower for optimum performance 😉

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